Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Fading Kingman Cowboys & Indians

December 6, 2011

This morning Kathy asked me if I had a box of family photos she could look at, so I went out to the studio and found the nearest box full and brought it back to the kitchen table. Opening the box, I found this photo of a Kingman cowboy.

On the back it says that the cowboy is "Tom Crabtree on Tony." That's all it says. Like the person who wrote it, assumed everyone would know the rest. Those are the Hualapais in the background and by the look of the street I'd say it's Jefferson Street on Hilltop. I believe that tree at far left was in the Lowry's front yard, which was next of my aunt Sadie Pearl's house. The Lowry's were rarely there, but one time Mr. Lowry told me he was related to the Tombstone McLuarys and that Wyatt Earp was a bastard killer.

I assume Tom was a rodeo cowboy since he has the number 5 on his pants leg. Based on the other photos around it, I'd say this is from about 1940 and taken by my mother (it was in a box of her things).

Another photo in the box caught my eye:

This appears to be a photo of a Navajo sheepherder, although it would make more sense that it was a Hualapai (their res is closer to Kingman), but the land behind him looks to be a little flat for Peach Springs country. As the cryptic notation says, it was taken in July of 1940, but why and what were the circumstances?

Looking through the rest of the photos I found this one:

Is this a companion photo? Did my mother, on a road trip, take a photo of the sheepherder, then turn the camera to catch his sheep? Since there is a shadow of a man with a cowboy hat in the first photo, did a male companion take the photo? When I visited my aunt Jean in Fort Sumner recently, she alluded to a trip my mother took with a certain cowboy. In 1940, this would be five years before my mother married an Iowa farmboy, and my aunt confided to me that my mother was quite popular with the local, Kingman cowboys.

So, where were they going? What were they hoping for? Are any of these subjects still alive? Probably not. Haunting really, as time erases all traces of what was here. We take photos to capture time, to stop the erosion, but, when I'm gone, nobody will know even what I've told you.

And so every family has this dilemma, or struggle. It can't be preserved, it's going to fade, get lost, disappear, just like us.

Wait a minute. Could the cowboy in the shadow be Tom Crabtree? A Kingman cowboy road trip? Hmmmmm.

"When you write down your life, every page should contain something no one has ever heard about."
—Elias Canetti

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